And then there’s the rat.
It’s not wild, really, but I don’t think you could say it’s been domesticated, even though rats rely on man as a source of food.
I’m not talking here about the asepticized white rats that run this way and that in lab mazes all around the globe. I’m talking about your ordinary, run-of-the-mill, it-bit-my-baby rat associated with unsavory slums or abandoned buildings. The unmistakable - even in Latin - rattus, whether black (rattus rattus) or brown (rattus norvegicus... although why Norway got the honor of having the brown rat named after it, I can’t begin to tell you).
Personally, I’ve seen mice in one particular Paris Métro station, scurrying along the rails, scavenging for bits of food commuters let drop. But a rat I’ve never seen, even though I’m told they’re around.
|Place St. Pierre|
one building on the right is mine
(photo by Nadar)
Leap forward in time to General Charles de Gaulle, President of France from 1959 to 1969. As President, he lived in the Palais de l’Elysée, the White House of France. From his upstairs windows, he could look out over the graveled courtyard to the posh buildings across the Rue St. Honoré. On one of those buildings just opposite his windows was a sign that read ATTILA, Fléau des Rats - a reference to Attila the Hun being the Scourge of God. It advertised the services of an exterminator who touted himself as the Scourge of Rats, but De Gaulle is said to have felt it was personally aimed at him by a left-wing citizen. Plus he deemed it below his dignity to have this visible from his residence. He tried everything he could, legally, to make Attila move or take down the sign, but long after De Gaulle stepped down both were still there.
|Carreau des Halles - 1953|
|Baltard pavilion, Nogent-sur-Marne|
... which, interestingly enough, was the year the rats returned to Paris after the Franco-Prussian War.
This is the first in a series about Les Halles, which is undergoing yet another total re-make. The buildings that were eventually built on the site of Baltard’s pavilions have now been torn down and a whole new concept will gradually become the new reality of this old neighborhood.